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Discovery Group Boosts Global Growth with AWS

2021

Financial services and life insurance company Discovery Group isn’t just about selling insurance policies. It wants to improve the health of the people it serves too. Through its Vitality shared-value platform—which covers physical, mental, financial, and environmental wellness—it aims to motivate 100 million people worldwide to become 20 percent more active by 2025. To reach those numbers and new markets, it needed a flexible and cost-effective technology infrastructure so its insurance partners could offer the Vitality program and products to their own customers. When its existing on-premises infrastructure proved too expensive and cumbersome, Discovery Group turned to Amazon Web Services (AWS).

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Vitality Group is the spearhead of Discovery Group’s global ambitions and the really big growth will come from the Vitality One solution being implemented across the board.”

Hushan Padayachee
Chief Information Officer, Vitality Group

Vitality Group is part of South Africa’s Discovery Group and is responsible for growing the Vitality shared-value platform outside of South Africa and the UK. Initially, the Vitality program tracked personal habits and behaviors such as physical activity and nutrition over the course of a person’s life, with the goal of encouraging and rewarding healthy choices. This has now expanded to include financial, mental, and environmental health and well-being too. Discovery Group has made it a strategic priority to increase group revenue by growing the Vitality program globally and expanding it into other markets, such as banking and personal and commercial insurance.

International Expansion and Improving Health

To meet its goals, Vitality Group needed to help insurance partners easily deploy the Vitality program and offer it in local markets, typically through co-branding or white labeling. The answer was the Vitality One technology platform. 

“Vitality One is the core IT asset of the Vitality Group business,” says Hushan Padayachee, chief information officer at Vitality Group. “It is also the core platform for our international businesses going forward. It’s going to be the underlying platform that we build all future international products on as we go global.” 

The business faced a choice when it conceived of Vitality One in 2015: build the platform on its existing on-premises infrastructure or build it in the cloud. But the on-premises route would have meant high upfront infrastructure setup costs and less flexibility. For example, it would have meant having data centers in every territory to support partners’ local data sovereignty requirements. This would have been costly and would have meant slower rollout to new markets. 

“Our legacy systems were not necessarily designed from first principles for those kind of requirements,” Padayachee says. “They just evolved over time and new requirements had to be hammered into those on-premises solutions. It’s perfectly functional but requires a lot of effort to maintain. We had multiple on-premises customer data center deployments and that pattern was no longer sustainable for us from a cost perspective.”

From On-Premises to AWS

The alternative was to build Vitality One in the cloud. This would eliminate infrastructure setup costs and provide easily scalable compute and database services on demand. It would also shift spending from capital expenditures to operational expenditures. Discovery Group already used AWS for some workloads and Vitality Group chose to tap into that trusted relationship. 

“The core purpose of moving to AWS was around reducing cost, being more agile, and being closer to customers that potentially didn’t want to host Vitality One in an on-premises data center,” Padayachee says. 

Launched in August 2018, Vitality One runs on a microservices application architecture built on AWS. The underlying infrastructure hosts and runs the multi-tenancy deployment for each insurance partner’s version of Vitality One. This can be done in the partner’s geographic region of choice to meet local data sovereignty requirements. Vitality Group has also started to move to native Amazon services Vitality Oneas part of its wider modernization effort. 

These services provide the high availability and scalability that Vitality Group needs to manage unpredictable customer usage in different markets. This would have been more difficult and costly on-premises. And moving from capital expenditures to operational expenditures makes it cost effective to roll out the platform into new territories—there’s no need for huge upfront infrastructure investments. 

Vitality Group now has multiple instances of the Vitality One platform hosted on AWS globally. 

AWS Partner Accenture helped with the initial Vitality One application development and supports global expansion and go-to-market efforts. Another AWS Partner, Synthesis, helped to build, support, and maintain the platform and has assisted Vitality Group with an AWS Well-Architected Review and modernization efforts.

A Technology Platform for Future Growth

As of June 2020, Discovery Group had spent R910 million ($61.2 million) to develop Vitality One, and was already seeing results: 11 markets—including Austria, Canada, Ecuador, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, and Pakistan—had gone live on the platform, serving more than 1.5 million of the 20 million-plus Vitality members globally. 

By building Vitality One on AWS, Vitality Group is reaping the benefits of reduced setup and running costs, along with high availability and scalability. It also has a platform that can support international expansion and revenue growth. 

Using the platform, Discovery Group aims to deliver the Vitality program internationally across multiple business lines; nine new markets and three US-driven initiatives are set to go live by mid-2022. Meanwhile, existing markets are gradually migrating to Vitality One to enhance their own product propositions and client experience. 

“Vitality Group is the spearhead of Discovery Group’s global ambitions and the really big growth will come from the Vitality One solution being implemented across the board,” Padayachee says.


About Discovery Group

Discovery Group is a South African global financial services and health and life
insurance company. Its shared value insurance model delivers better health and
value for clients, superior actuarial dynamics for the insurer, and a healthier
society.

Benefits of AWS

  • High availability and scalability with no need for huge up front infrastructure investment
  • Flexible and cost-effective solution to replace expensive and cumbersome on-premises infrastructure
 

AWS Services Used

Amazon EC2

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is a web service that provides secure, resizable compute capacity in the cloud. It is designed to make web-scale cloud computing easier for developers.

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Amazon Aurora

Amazon Aurora is a MySQL and PostgreSQL-compatible relational database built for the cloud that combines the performance and availability of traditional enterprise databases with the simplicity and cost-effectiveness of open source databases.

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Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS)

Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS) is a managed container service to run and scale Kubernetes applications in the cloud or on-premises.

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